Being told that a loved one has a life limiting illness is tough news to receive. The end of life care they need at this time should be orientated around maintaining the best possible quality of life during their last years.
End of life care is treatment focusing on all the patient’s needs at the end of their life as well as their family, carers and friends. It is not just about managing pain but providing emotional, social and spiritual support as well.
In this section we’ll be answering some of the difficult questions you may have about end of life care.
When does end of life care begin?
People are approaching the ‘end of life’ when they are likely to pass away within the next 12 months, something not simple to predict. This includes people whose passing is imminent, as well as people who:
- have an advanced incurable illness such as cancer or dementia
- have co-existing conditions that shorten their life expectancy to 12 months
- are at risk of dying from a sudden crisis in their condition
- have a life-threatening condition caused by an accident or stroke
Who provides end of life care?
Different health and social care professionals may be involved in end of life care, depending on someone’s needs. For example, GPs, community nurses, hospice staff and counsellors may all be involved, as well as social care staff, physiotherapists, occupational therapists or complementary therapists.
Whether a person is being cared for at home or in a care home, their local GP has overall responsibility of care. Community nurses usually visit at home, and family and friends may be closely involved in caring too.
What is palliative care?
If someone has an illness that can’t be cured, palliative care makes them as comfortable as possible, by managing the pain and other distressing symptoms, and is provided as part of end of life care. It also involves psychological, social and spiritual support for everyone involved.
Palliative care isn’t just for the end of life. Someone may receive palliative care in the earlier stages of an illness while still receiving other therapies to treat their condition.
Who provides palliative care?
Palliative care teams are made up of different healthcare professionals and can co-ordinate the care of people with an incurable illness. Palliative care services may be provided by the NHS, your local council or a charity.